Michael J. Graff

President and CEO, Air Liquide USA
Chairman, Air Liquide Canada
MSChE '79

For his leadership in marketing, manufacturing, and business development in diverse industries and world markets

As he flew across the Atlantic to meetings in Paris recently, Michael Graff jotted down some thoughts on life and work. The words he chose are action words that radiate energy, tenacity, and a quest for challenges—fitting for a man who says he never wants to lose that can-do spirit.

Graff chose to study engineering because it drew on his interests in math, chemistry, and physics and allowed him to work with new and innovative technology. For him, it presented limitless opportunity in a changing world—a way to be a part of making it a better place. After getting his master's degree in chemical engineering at Purdue, Graff embarked on a career that for the last 30 years has led him to positions as president or CEO of chemical and polymer businesses across the Americas, Asia, and Europe.

As a BP/Amoco executive for 27 years, Graff developed and grew global business, driving the development and implementations of new technologies across the energy sector and the evolution of new industries including fine acids for the packaging, film, and fiber industries. He led negotiations for mergers and acquisitions valued in excess of $3 billion, but he is quick to point out that he didn't do it alone. He credits the diverse approaches to problem solving that came from multidisciplinary teams. "Engineers are inquisitive by nature and have a sense there is nothing that can't be intellectually tackled," he says.

Now at the helm of Air Liquide USA and chairman of the board of Air Liquide Canada, Graff is leading the company's North American industrial gas operations and embracing the opportunity to champion a safer, cleaner environment. "I feel an ongoing responsibility for the safety of our people, our customers, and the communities in which we operate and for the environmental aspects of all we do," he says. Graff is especially interested in the concept of a hydrogen economy and other sustainable energy solutions.

Family, faith, and a good-natured outlook toward life has always been his foundation. As passionate and committed to coaching ball as he is to leading a world class business, he sets high standards for himself and others, but never takes his eye off what's really important.

"I have a never-ending yearning to understand how things work and how we can make things better," he says. "I am a naturally curious person with a healthy competitive spirit. I want to be intellectually challenged. I want to be engaged, energized, contributing, mentoring others, making a difference."

Career Highlights

2007 President and CEO
Air Liquide USA
Air Liquide Canada
2006 Director's Consortium,
Stanford, Wharton,
University of Chicago
2005-06 President
MJG Consulting
2002 Outstanding Chemical Engineer
Purdue University
2000 Executive Education Program,
1997-2004 ChE Industrial Advisory Council
Purdue University
1994 Advanced Management Program
Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
1981 MBA studies, University of Chicago
1977-2004 Various positions with Amoco and then BP, Plc., from process and project engineering to construction and operations management with Amoco Oil's Refining System; to Corporate Planning, Fuels Marketing and M&A with Amoco Corp; to global business manager for Amoco Chemical; chief executive of Global Aromatics, BP Chemical; and president and CEO, BP Polymers Americas

MSChE '79, Purdue University
BSChE '77, Illinois Institute of Technology